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Johnnie Walker Red Label

Coke addicted junk from the 70s

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@tastydramReview by @tastydram

13th Mar 2014

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    70

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Titanic beverage group Diageo sells 130 million bottles of Johnnie Walker on a yearly basis. The Red Label blend accounts for the vast majority of these figures. It is one of the cheapest blends and has been produced since 1909. It is probably the most widely available tipple in the world. Red Label contains 35 different malt and grain whiskies.

Tasting notes

Color: Red Label has a classic amber color with a soft golden glow. This does not tell you much about the whisky. It has suffered from the notorious E in whisky (caramel colour has been added) for a consistent colour. Because customers expect so, right?

Nose: Juniper berries and overripe pears are the main aroma's I'm picking up at the nose. After a few sniffs there's some sort of synthetic component that makes an appearance. I can only identify it (for now) as plastic wrap that spent too much time in the oven. At room temperature there's a touch of imitation leather, sweet grains and dry baker's yeast.

Taste: On the palate there's an explosion of soft peat smoke, toasted oak and a mixture of spices. Juniper berries, ginger and pink pepper. And a hint of soft soapiness. But don't worry. It does not get very unpleasant.

Finish: The finish is quite short. An extinguished fire with flakes of oak and pine resin.

Conclusion: Johnny Walker Red label is marketed as a mix drink by Diageo and I suggest you follow that advise. Use it as an appetiser with ice and soda or mix it with Coke (or Pepsi, I'm not in for a "Who's better" debate). Drinking this one neat is far from a life-changing experience. In that case you'd better pick a Black of Double Black label off the shelf.

You cannot call this a bad whisky. Certainly not if you take the price into account. Paying more than € 17 would be considered a bamboozle. But there are plenty more bang for the buck whiskies than this. I put it in the same category as the typical pub white wines. Serve and drink without pretensions.

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4 comments

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

JW Red having an explosion of peat smoke?! Did you ever drink Ardbeg or Laphroaig 10?

5 years ago 0

@tastydram
tastydram commented

Allrighy, perhaps the word "explosion" was maybe not the most appropriate. Of course it is less peatier then an Argbeg or Laphroaig 10. My bad ;)

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Over about 40 years I've tasted about 8-10 different Johnnie Walker Red Labels. They have varied astonishingly. There have been a couple which I very much enjoyed, and at least one which was completely undrinkable swill. The bottle line for me has been that you can't trust what's in the bottle until you taste it, and more times than not it is not something that you'd want to buy a bottle of. Once 25 or 30 years ago I bought a 375 bottle of Red Label, not thinking too much about it. That was the most memorably bad bottle of JW Red I have encountered, and probably the worst whisk(e)y of any type which I have encountered. I have not bought any Johnnie Walker Red Label since that time.

At free tastings I am always curious to see what the last JW Red Label tastes like. I had a couple in the last 5 years which I liked, but then last year they reverted to producing a batch which I would not take a second dram of, even for free.

If you are stuck with a bad bottle of JW Red I suppose you could get through it by mixing it with soft drinks or making cocktails out of it...but why anyone who knows better would take the chance of buying a whole bottle of it when there are much more reliable blended whiskies for the same price, is beyond me.

All of that said, when I run into a good batch of Johnnie Walker Red Label--and I have tasted some good batches of it--then I am very happy to drink it. BUT...BEWARE!

5 years ago 0

@Pandemonium
Pandemonium commented

^^why take the risk? Unless it's free of course. Well written review, I believe we must thank Diageo, for producing this cheap disgusting liquid for the layman, so we can have our pick of of well aged single malts

5 years ago 0

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